Too Long; Didn't Play: Reset 1-1

Sponsored By: Zoso1701

Time Resetting: 55 Minutes

Level 1-0 review

Using death as a mechanic in a game that harkens to a genre where death came early and often?

That’s just crazy enough to work!

Level 1-1 review

I have been a fan of 8-bit style graphics ever since 8-bit was considered a lot of bits. Done well, it can be evocative of the things it’s trying to depict while at the same time looking absolutely nothing like them. It’s a neat trick, if you can pull it off.

An undermentioned part of the resurgence in popularity of retro-looking games is how those 8-bits also governed gameplay, not just graphics. A game that looked like, say, Contra also controlled like Contra because the hardware placed limitations on things like movement, if only because the limitations on animation precluded a lot of frames. So ducking, for example, was an instant, one-frame change rather than a fluid movement because there simply wasn’t enough memory to spare on making it fluid.

Those sorts of limitations don’t hinder the modern games with retro graphics, so the developers are free to make games that look like, say, Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers without having to make them play like Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers.

This is something of a loss, because Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers was the best game ever and should be remastered (Though we did, at least, get a rerelease). But that’s neither here nor there. The point is that developers are free to inject more modern game design elements into their old-looking games.

Take, for example, Reset 1-1, which has a lot going on. There’s no particular reason this game needs to use a retro graphics style, except that it was the aesthetic that the developer thought worked for the game. It’s simple, but effective, and the game has a lot of depth, which I appreciate.

You have your basic jump and attack buttons, and a roll button has been added to the mix. Roll makes you invulnerable to attacks, but it also locks you into a fixed movement in whatever direction you’re facing, which makes it literal murder (or rather, literal suicide) on platforms.

Rolling and attacking also both use stamina, and when you’re out all you can do is run and jump. This means you have to think about your movement and your attacks, because spamming slashes at an opponent who’s holding up a shield is just going to wear you out and leave you vulnerable to attacks until you catch your breath. This is especially important when fighting bosses, which are too large to jump over and often have attacks too big to run away from without rolling.

The game features some light leveling, which means every so often you kill enough enemies to upgrade your health, attack power, or stamina. My usual strategy in games like this is to upgrade health above everything for the first dozen levels or so, then focus on offensive stuff like stamina and attack power, but Reset 1-1 discourages that kind of thinking. If you just level your health it won’t help you, since you’ll be taking more damage because you can’t dodge. If you just upgrade your dodge, you’ll still flounder against the bosses (unless, I suppose, you’re better at this sort of game than I am) because the attacks you fail to dodge hit you too hard to withstand more than two or three of them.

I could try focusing entirely on attack power in the hopes that killing things quicker will require less stamina and result in shorter, less draining fights. Maybe I will. But I suspect the real strategy is to find a blend that works for you.

Another part of the strategy is to grind, because while enemies respawn when you die, you maintain your level and EXP count. Which brings us to the final, and possibly most unique, feature of Reset 1-1: There are no lives. Or, more accurately, there seem to be infinite lives. Early on in the game there is a puzzle where you have to jump down into a pit and throw a switch. The switch lowers a bridge, but it also traps you in the pit. The only way out is to die and respawn. When you return to the pit you’ll find the bridge is lowered and the guard is freaking out because he just saw you jump to your death.

Unfortunately, the enemies you’ve damaged regain full health when you respawn, which feels like a bit of ludonarrative dissonance to me. You can affect changes in the world that remain in place after your death, but if you whittle a boss monster down to one or two hits it magically heals just because you did? That doesn’t make any sense.

Of course, the enemies resetting when you die allows you to grind for levels, which means you can get to the bosses stronger than the last time, so I suppose it works out.

I’m a little unclear on a few things, though. For example, after you’ve died a few times, the color starts to drain out of the world. I’m not sure if that’s meant to signify running out of lives (which never seems to happen) or something else, but the game hasn't told me.

There are a few minor problems I have with the game, aside from that. The controls feel a bit too floaty for how precise the platforming can be at times. Maybe if the main character wiped a little – not all – of the crisco off his feet, then I wouldn’t mind so much, but he does tend to slide around more than I like in this sort of game. Also, the controls themselves are a bit awkward. On an Xbox 360 controller, you have jump mapped to the A button, roll is mapped to B and attack is mapped to the right bumper. You can also swap weapons with the left and right triggers. I’m not crazy about that configuration, but I can’t edit it so I have to either get good at it or leave it be.

And I don’t want to leave it be. This is a game with a lot to offer, and it scratches that Dark Souls deliberate-combat itch while also allowing you to pause the game, which puts it well ahead of Dark Souls in my book.

Keep Resetting?

I think so. There’s something of a spark to this one that has me interested. I like the graphical style, and even though the controls aren’t as responsive as I’d necessarily like them to be, it’s still enjoyable.

I’ll probably give it to the next boss or so. If I can’t come to grips with the controls by then, it wasn’t meant to be. Until then, I’m having a good time, and what else can you ask from a game?

Is it the Dark Souls of Side-Scrolling Retro Platformers?

It certainly seems to be trying for that title, I’ll give it that. On balance, though, I think it gets a 0.7 Dark Souls Equivalence Ratio (or DSER, pronounced as if you’re sneezing at a superior officer). It’s going for the “you will die, and die, and die” motif with deliberate combat where every move counts, but the controls just aren’t where they need to be. A little tighter, a little more responsive, and I could put it right up there with Dark Souls.


I like that art! Reminds me most of Fez, which I really enjoyed.

Maybe the background changing colors is to indicate that you've been dying all day? That's a strange mechanic to remain unexplained.